What Is Prickly Pear And What Does It Taste Like?

Prickly pear – also known as cactus fruit, cactus fig, mission cactus, nopal, tuna, paddle cactus, or Opuntia – is a candy-sweet fruit that's native to the Western Hemisphere and has made a name for itself in a variety of cuisines over the past several millennia (via FoodPrint). The bright flavors, eye-catching shapes, and stunning colors of prickly pears make them a popular star ingredient in everything from tasty appetizers, salads, vinaigrette, sauces, and bread to sweet and refreshing desserts, candies, syrups, jellies, juices, and drinks. (Epicurious has a fantastic recipe for prickly pear margaritas – yum!)

Because they're cacti, prickly pears are covered in glochids, which are sharp, barb-like splinters that can be painful to the touch. When handling a raw prickly pear, it's extremely important to protect your hands with thick gloves to prevent injury or discomfort. To easily remove the glochids, simply burn them off with an open flame. This causes them to "pop" off. However, if you buy prickly pears from the grocery store, the glochids will be likely already removed by the vendor, making the fruit safe to hold, peel, and slice right away, according to The Spruce Eats.

What does prickly pear taste like?

Those who have been lucky enough to experience the magic of prickly pear have described its flavor as a remarkable fusion of watermelon and classic bubble gum (via Spoon University). The bubble gum flavor isn't too overpowering but adds enough oomph to make this fruit mind-blowingly delicious. The prickly pear's seeds are also completely edible, per food blog The Other Side of the Tortilla.

Luckily, the neon pink prickly pear boasts a ton of awesome health benefits, according to Mayo Clinic. The juicy flesh is filled with vitamins and nutrients that are linked to reducing the risk of diabetes, maintaining cholesterol levels, and possibly even curing brutal hangovers (Thank you, anti-inflammatories and antioxidants!). It also contains potassium, which helps support good digestion and promotes cardiovascular and metabolic health (via WebMD). Prickly pear is also used as an ingredient in some skincare, haircare, and beauty products.

If you're looking for a new fruit to try, go ahead and take a stab at prickly pear. It's beautifully colored, delectably juicy, super fun to prepare and eat, and all-around good for you.